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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:25 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 5:25 pm, 24th June 2020

It is a pleasure to contribute to the debate. Because the motion mentions cancer referrals, I hope that it is in order to put on record the best wishes—and, I am sure, the love—of everyone in the House for our hon. Friend Tracey Crouch, who has bravely announced on Twitter today that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been caught early, and she is getting excellent treatment from her local health board, and I think all Members on both sides of the House know what a fighter she is. I know that she will be back in her place very soon. Tracey was my proxy when I was on paternity leave, and I know that, because she has a proxy under the current system, she will continue to represent her constituents to the absolute best of her ability. We wish her, and her partner and young son, the best in these difficult times.

I also want to use this debate as an opportunity to put on record my thanks for the outstanding work done by the nurses, doctors and staff at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Moray, in our GP surgeries across the area and also in our care homes. For a large part of this pandemic, our care home staff have been the unsung heroes. Yes, there was a focus on the NHS at the outset of the pandemic, but right from the off, our care home staff were looking after residents who, very early on, had stopped seeing friends and relatives. Going above their own caring duties, the staff also had to replicate a lot of the contact that the residents had with the outside world, and I really want to pay tribute to all the care home staff in Moray and across the country.

Sticking with Moray for one more moment, I am grateful to use the opportunity of today’s debate to confirm that the update on Moray’s health and social care today once again gave us the positive news that, in the past seven days since the last update, there had been no covid-related deaths in Moray and that the total remained at 86. We are making positive progress. That progress is possible because of the Government support that has been given at UK and Scottish level, but ultimately it is because of the way in which the public have responded to this crisis, and we should never forget what they have done.

I want to focus briefly on the remarks made by Richard Thomson. He made a very good speech, but he danced around the edge of some of the issues that I was hoping he would mention. I noted that, in The Herald in Scotland yesterday, there was an opinion piece that said that there was no basis for the argument that Scotland had handled this crisis any better. Anyone listening to the hon. Gentleman —or indeed any SNP representative in this place or at Holyrood—would think that the crisis had been handled so much better there than in any other part of the United Kingdom. However, as that opinion piece in The Herald said, there is no real evidence to support that.

When I intervened and asked the hon. Gentleman what he felt about his Government’s record on testing, he did not really answer my question. Given that we have the capacity for 15,500 tests every day in Scotland, why are the Scottish Government overseeing only about a third of those tests? By the end of this month, if the Scottish Government had matched testing to capacity, they would have done 500,000 more tests. Testing is an important element as we come out of the pandemic and open up our businesses, our communities and our hospitality sector, which is seriously concerned about the announcements from the Scottish Government that it is not able to reopen as quickly as in other parts the United Kingdom. The fact is that we have that capacity at our fingertips but it is not being used. I think the Scottish Government should go away and reconsider, and try to use as many tests as they can to help us to get out of this.

In the last few seconds remaining, I want to put on record my thanks for what is being done by UK Government Ministers and Ministers across every devolved nation. This is a time when we all have to pull together, and I think we are seeing that. We need to continue to do that and I think today’s debate has allowed us a further opportunity to do so.